Federal hiring reform, round 2

As those who follow the intricacies of federal hiring already know, the Merit Systems Protection Board found that the Federal Career Intern Program (FCIP) violated merit systems principles because positions were not advertised enough to allow veterans to apply, and thus violated veteran’s preference. (For those not familiar with federal hiring, this last sentence will be pure gibberish–but in plain English, this meant that the simplest, easiest way for your typical recent college grad to get a federal job was ended.)

As a career services person working with many students interested in federal jobs, the FCIP program was one of the best ways for my students to get federal jobs. In fact, in my three years working in career services for a Master of Public Administration program, I can’t think of a single student who landed a federal job through the “competitive hiring” process on USAJobs, which is the way everyone directs people to apply. Each and every student who landed a federal job got one via FCIP, PMF, SCEP to full time conversion, or a special fellowship program.

Why? Because hardly any students were willing or able to rewrite their entire resume to fit the federal format, to write endless knowledge, skills and abilities essays, or to answer up to 100 multiple choice questions, on top of trying to decipher the legalese of the postings, faxing or mailing in transcripts, etc. And even when they did apply–and many of them did apply via USAJobs, over and over–they never heard back, and they never were hired because almost none of them were veterans or had enough work experience to be found “best qualified.”

Anyway, the Obama Administration just announced a new Executive Order which replaces FCIP with a Recent Graduates Program (which is a good renaming, because no one ever understood that an “intern” program was actually a full-time, post-graduate, 2 year job), and replaces the Student Career Experience Program (SCEP) with an Internship Program (which is a good thing, because no one ever understood what SCEP was).

I am trying to be optimistic that these new (or at least re-named) programs will be open to graduate students and not just undergrads. There has actually been somewhat of a lobbying effort conducted by the leaders of the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration to ensure that the new Pathways to federal hiring will be open to graduate students. I hope they succeed. Otherwise, MPA and other graduate students will be stuck with the competitive hiring process, which almost never works for them, internship-to-full time conversion, which is a rare thing (especially in areas of the country where students can’t always work in an internship and accrue the 640 hours required) and the Presidential Management Fellowship, which has a somewhat inscrutable hiring process and leaves a lot of talented and dedicated students unselected.

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